Review Summary: In the summer of 1997 Newport rockers Feeder finally got around to releasing their debut album: the grunge influenced Polythene, it saw them hailed by critics as the UK's answer to American bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins and although that may seem pu
Whereas today Feeder are known as an emotional alternative rock band back in 1997 they were attempting to spearhead Britain's response to America's grunge scene which had seen the success of bands such as Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam. It was never an easy task as most of the UK was wrapped up in the Britpop scene, led by Oasis and Blur. However by 1997 this cheery indie outbranch was on the rocks after Oasis released their disastrously bad 'Be Here Now' album and Radiohead had come up on the outside with their art rock classic 'OK Computer'. Feeder could look to the example of fellow Welsh britrockers Manic Street Preachers who had tasted mainstream success with 1996's 'Everything Must Go'. 'Polythene' is a totally different album to that however and it's also totally different to every other Feeder album released since but it's arguably their best effort.
For those who are reading this review and only know Feeder as meaningful, emotional indie types be prepared for a bit of a shock. Feeder used to rock with the best of them. Early singles such as 'Stereo World' and 'Cement' cracked quiet-loud dynamics with massive guitar punching in the gut when the choruses arrive. Meanwhile album highlight 'Descend' is bonecrunchingly heavy when it gets down to business, hard to compare to 2002's single 'Forget About Tomorrow' or 2005's piano led 'Tender'. The change in Feeder was, of course, brought on by original drummer Jon Lee's suicide in 2001 and it's perfectly understandable. 'Polythene' is the sound of a band finally getting somewhere and creating some joyous and pretty meaningless anthems to celebrate.
It's hard to decipher exactly what the likes of 'Polythene Girl' and 'Tangerine' are meant to convey especially with the latter's lyrics: 'I know it's sad/life's just a piece of fruit/touch down, new ground/stop living on the moon'
. But there are still moments of sincerity from the band. 'High' is an anthem to end all anthems with it's tagline: 'I'm going out for a while/so I can get high with my friends/don't wait up/cause I won't be home today'
and 'Suffocate' is a standout with it's 'Give it all'
message. Meanwhile 'Change' is the sort of song you could get away with playing to your grandmother without retribution.
So despite the murky grunge sound and the fist in the air anthems that populate the majority of the record there's still that Feeder tendency to infuse melody into each and every song. The difference is that on this album the trio have got the mixture between hard and soft rock spot on which is something they unfortunately failed to stick to in later years.
The album's main problem is that unless you really get it on first listen you probably won't end up listening to it again that much. Several songs: 'Crash' and 'Radiation' being the two most obvious examples aren't especially memorable and with the exception of brain burrowing choruses on 'My Perfect Day' and 'High' some of the songs do blend together somewhat but if you persevere you'll discover that you've invested in a really very good and under rated album, possibly the best that Feeder (and arguably the Britrock movement) has produced.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: 1) 'Descend'
3) 'My Perfect Day'